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GILLIAN FREEMAN
Jack Would Be A Gentleman


click to enlarge

Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1962
(first published by Longmans 1959)
(price: 3/-; 200 pages)

dedication: For Janet and Clifford Sandelson


The blurb on the back:

'D'yer think I'm bloody well made of money?' Jack Prosser stared angrily at his wife, then at his children and finally at the veneered television squatting on the television table. And then a few days later: The pools man drew off one leather glove and wrung Jack's hand enthusiastically. 'Not a bad sum, Mr Prosser. You've won fifty thousand pounds.
In this way Gillian Freeman, whose understanding of the working class was so brilliantly demonstrated in
The Liberty Man, plunges the Prossers into wealth. It is a situation we have all dreamed about. And here you can read how it worked out for Jack, the housepainter, for his discontented wife, and for their son and daughter.
'Quite out of the ordinary' -
Sunday Times
'Miss Freeman writes with uncommon ease and emancipation' -
Guardian
'Most sensitively and sympathetically done' -
Observer


opening lines:
'D'yer think I'm bloody well made of money?' Jack Prosser stared angrily at his wife, then at his children and finally at the veneered television squatting on the television table.


In the modern world of the National Lottery (or Lotto or whatever they're calling the bloody thing this week), the old story of the Pools-winner looks a bit dated. But, back before Camelot, even before Viv Nicholson declared that what she would do with her winnings was 'spend spend spend' , Gillian Freeman was exploring the consequences of sudden wealth.

Her conclusions aren't very startling, and the effects she outlines on the family in this novel seem pretty obvious: mother wants social advancement and acceptance, father gets exploited in business dealings, daughter sees chance of romantic happiness with a bit of posh, son wants to have it large up in town. But perhaps this is doing Ms Freeman something of a disservice, because actually the book is more predictive than predictable - written in 1959 (and republished here in the wake of Ms Nicholson), it was an imaginative leap into a situation that had yet to become commonplace.

Even so, the best stuff in here is the detailed description of the world of 1950s Britain. Most of it is set in a dormitory town - working-class with a posh bit of suburb attached - that is as parochial as only small-town England can be, with just the occasional venture up to London for some glamour:

The restaurant was in Knightsbridge and called Les Trois Soldats. The walls were decorated with enormous blown-up photographs of three young soldiers - cleaning their kit, on parade, in military action, and doing PT. Above the narrow bar hung all kinds of soldiers' hats, from a furry bearskin to a rather shabby beret ... Moyra had never been anywhere like it in her life. She was astonished that it was so small and cramped, that there were no table-cloths and napkins and instead of frock-coated waiters there were only boys in scarlet sweaters and tight black jeans. (p.30)


ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5


from the maker of:
click to enlarge
The Liberty Man
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The Leather Boys
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The Leader
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The Marriage Machine
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Nazi Lady

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